Densely built-up urban space is characterized by high structural exploitation of land and a low proportion of open space. In the inner city and in the densely built-up outskirts, only few open spaces are available for recreational purposes in green surroundings. The large near-urban recreational areas are located on the outskirts of town or further outside the city, and are difficult to reach for many recreation-seekers.
Within the densely built-up areas, public green spaces, i.e., generally accessible areas under the legal auspices of the Conservation and Green Space Agencies, are the places which offer regeneration and physical/emotional adjustment, and thus assume an important role for the recreation of the population. Green spaces should meet varying requirements with regard to attainability, size, equipment and design, in accordance with the different recreational needs of the population.
For instance, the footpath acceptable for reaching a green space (entrance area) is assumed to be no longer than 15 minutes. Good attainability of a green space is an important criterion for open-space leisure for less mobile sections of the population, such as senior citizens or children. Thus, near-residential green space is of great significance.
The demands of recreation seekers on the size of the open spaces and the multiplicity of its equipment and design increase with the length of time spent there. Thus, larger parks with an abundant array of use possibilities are much frequented on weekends. For instance, groups with children prefer non-regulated park areas, such as open green spaces, while senior citizens tend to prefer more orderly, generously equipped areas (cf. Gröning 1985).
A public survey on the quality and use of public green spaces in Berlin in 2000 showed that the need for green space, and also user behaviour, have remained unchanged, by comparison with the conclusions arrived at by planners during the ’80s (konsalt GmbH / Ökologie & Planung 2000).
The continuing interest in near-residential public green space was also confirmed by an on-the-spot investigation in 2001, which concluded that 80% of the inhabitants of Berlin visit public green spaces often or at least occasionally, and that 600,000 children and young people enter the playgrounds and open spaces (konsalt GmbH / Ökologie & Planung 2001).
Regarding the existing situation, a distinction is made between near-residential open space and near-development open space, with assignment to one of these categories depending on area size.
The type near-residential open space is associated with the immediate residential area, its intake area being limited to 500 m. It can be reached in a short time (approx. 5-10 min. by foot), and with slight effort, and serves predominantly for short-term and after-work recreation. Because of its proximity to housing, this type of open space has a particular significance for less mobile sections of the population, such as children, senior citizens and handicapped persons. Near-residential open space is also of high value for employed persons, who can use their free time for a short stay outdoors. As a rule, green spaces of small size (as little as 0.5 ha) suffice for the demands of short-term and after-work recreation.
The type near-development open space, which includes all green spaces of over 10 ha, is also designed to serve the need for half-day and all-day recreation. Higher demands are associated with it, both in terms of size and of equipment diversity. Near-development green spaces of more than 50 ha in addition assume the function of superior-quality open spaces with multi-borough significance for the recreation of the Berlin population (e.g. the Great Tiergarten, Wuhlheide Public Park). The intake area of near-development open spaces ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 m, depending on the size of the facility. Fundamentally, a near-development open space should always also fulfil the function of a near-residential open space (for the breakdown, cf. Tab. 1).
In Berlin, the analysis of the availability of open spaces to the population is based on the following standard values:
- near-residential open space: 6 sq m per inhabitant (sq m/inh.),
- near-development open space: 7 sq m/inh.